European shares closed in negative territory on Thursday as volatility made a brutal comeback and ended a short-lived rebound after the beginning of the week’s global sell-off.
Europe’s VSTOXX volatility index jumped to 32, its highest since the UK’s Brexit referendum, and all European bourses ended deep in the red.
Europe’s STOXX 600 share index fell 1.8%, France’s CAC 40 was down 2% and Germany’s DAX lost 2.6%.
In Frankfurt, growth-sensitive stocks such as Volkswagen or BASF, lost 3.8% and 3.3% respectively.
The pan-European index is down more than 4% after equities took a battering worldwide this week.
“Technically, the rebound has failed,” said Mikael Jaccoby, of broker Oddo, explaining that markets are now clearly in a “risk-off” mode.
Results from ABB, a bellwether of European heavy industry, failed to cheer investors who have loaded up on cyclical stocks since December in the hope of a profit boost from synchronized global growth. The stock plunged 6.7%.
M&A headlines and positive trading updates, notably from banks, failed to maintain Thursday’s rally.
Danish telecoms company TDC led the STOXX 600, shooting up by nearly 18% — its best day since June 2007 — after it rejected a takeover approach from Macquarie and three Danish pension funds.
Swiss Re’s shares were up 2.1% after the reinsurer said it was in talks with Japan’s SoftBank to sell a minority stake.
Financials limited the damage, with strong earnings from UniCredit and Societe Generale.
SocGen’s shares rose by 1.9% after the bank reported forecast-beating results despite a quarterly drop in profit.
“French retail revenues better than guidance and good numbers in markets, with equity derivatives back to normal,” Jefferies analysts said.
Italy’s UniCredit rose 2.1% after profit topped forecasts and Banco BPM was up 0.3% after the bank raised its target for shedding bad loans.
France’s Pernod Ricard, up 2.1% after it raised its profit goals, were among the other companies to gain after earnings statements.
“The question was does this correction change the earnings picture or the economic picture? At this point, no it doesn’t,” said Pierre Bose, head of European strategy at Credit Suisse.
After this week’s sharp correction, valuations of the STOXX 600 have fallen back below their one-year average.
“It’s not cheap, but it’s much closer to fair value,” Bose said. “The market was moving close to vertically for the first few weeks of this year and absolute valuation has been a bit expensive for the past 18 months.
“From that point of view the correction that we’ve had is actually extremely helpful.